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Error Propagation

  • By: Daniel A. Griffith
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Quantitative attribute and geocoded data collection almost certainly entails error that arises from five sources: calculation, measurement, specification, sampling, and stochastic processes. Error propagation may be defined as the transmission of this error from data inputs to output results when performing data manipulations on maps that possess such an error. In extreme cases, this situation is characterized by the maxim “garbage in, garbage out.”

Types of Error

Calculation error refers to mistakes that arise from incorrect executions of arithmetic operations with, or imprecise representations (e.g., rounding) of, numbers. Measurement error refers to incorrect numbers in a data set. It arises from the use of the wrong measurement scale (i.e., nominal, ordinal, interval, ratio) or instruments lacking precision (i.e., the number of digits to the right of a ...

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